10 Ways to Reduce and Calm Your Anxiety –Especially During an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety. It’s that fist in your chest that clenches around your heart, and the match igniting a raging fire in your lungs. It’s the monster under your bed and the ghouls in your closet. Sometimes, especially with finals looming and the holiday season fast approaching, there are additional stressors that pile up until suddenly there’s a mountains worth of weight on your chest making it difficult for you to catch a breath. And when you’re anxious, nothing gets done. Or rather, nothing gets done well. There is nothing worse than trying to ease anxious feelings or trying to calm yourself from a full-blown anxiety attack. I’ve personally had my fair share of both, so I come to you today with a list of things that I’ve found have helped me cope over the years and keep me from constantly dwelling in the land of anxious thoughts.

1. Define what you’re feeling and call it what it is

Register that you’re panicking, register that what you’re feeling is anxiety, and call it what it is. A bonus point is to try and recognize your warning signs. What feelings do you get or what movements does your body make before an anxiety attack? Identify them. Write them down. Knowing what they are is key to helping yourself calm down or prepare before an attack starts.

2. Step away and question everything

No matter what you find yourself in the middle of, try to find a second where you can walk away and question what you’re feeling. Our brains have a bad habit of over-dramatizing many situations, which in turn causes us needless anxiety. Haven’t you noticed that if you find the strength to analyze a situation, it’s most likely never as bad as your brain imagines it to be? So, step away from whatever it is you’re currently doing, and question your feelings. What is causing you to feel this way? Is what you’re feeling justified? What is the realistic outcome? What can you do to make these feelings go away?

3. Breathe

The simplest tactic of all. Hyperventilating can only make things worse and generate more panic in our chests. Can’t calm down on your own? Try following along with the GIF below or try guided meditation (my recommendation is an app called Headspace) or try a relaxing session of yin or moksha yoga. 

4. Listen to some music

Whether it’s something loud and upbeat that you can get up and dance to, or something quiet and easy on your soul that you can relax with, music can help calm those annoying voices in your head. No matter your preference, music is a great way to take your mind off stressful things, even if it’s just for 3 minutes.

5. Organize, make a list, and make a schedule

With finals and term papers piling up, it can be easy to feel like there’s too much to get done and no time to do it. Start off by writing down everything you need to hand-in or get done in order of due date, then decide how much time you need for each and make a schedule for yourself to ensure that everything gets done in a timely manner. A hand-written to-do list really comes in handy when you get sick and tired of those incessant thoughts bouncing around in your head telling you that you’re running out of time, when really according to your to-do list, you’re right on schedule.

6. Find another way to be productive

Can’t handle working on your impending to-do list? Haven’t done laundry in a while? Need to clean the bathroom? Fridge empty? Haven’t gone to the gym in forever? Sometimes all we need is a little bit of productivity that isn’t part of our time sensitive to-do lists to get us back into a routine.

7. Get some fresh air

Being cooped up inside studying all day is no good for us. Get up and go for a walk, even if it’s just around the block. Take your flash cards with you and run through the stack while you walk around your neighbourhood.

8. Be positive

Sprinkle some positivity into your life and look at the bright side of every situation. For example, the bright side of being swamped with school work right now is that when winter break comes along it will be a heck of a lot more relaxing once all the hard work is over. Just think of the yummy holiday dinner you’ll be enjoying in a month’s time to avoid getting stressed over your term papers!

9. Fine someone to talk to

This is my most important point and I cannot stress enough how important it is to have someone you can talk to when anxiety starts to creep in. Never be afraid to seek help. And if you’re uncomfortable talking with a professional, that’s fine too. Talk to your partner, your friends, your family, . And if all else fails, get yourself a journal and pour your heart out into it. Sometimes writing without stopping is a great way to justify your feelings and get negative thoughts out of your head. Call it a brain dump, scribble what you need to, then close it and walk away. You’ll be surprised how much lighter you’ll feel once you’ve discussed all your worries, or at least gotten them out of your head and onto paper. Find a safe space, you do not have to suffer alone.

10. Do what you need to do, even if it’s as simple as crying it out

If all else fails and emotions have built up too high for you to deal with then feel free to cry it out. Let those emotions wash over you, scream if you have to, cry until you can’t remember why you started crying in the first place. Sometimes that’s all we need. Do what you need to do, and when the dust has settled and the tears have dried, brush yourself off and start from square one with a whole other world of determination.